The first Brand+Bread meetup happened on 1st march at IED Innovation Lab and, as promised, I’ll try to bring the conversation online and open it for debate. Our March theme was Brand and it involved deconstructing a little bit the very object of our discussion, by asking questions like What is a brand? What is branding? When do we need it and when not? What’s the purpose of it all? Here are all the questions we tried answering.
[Scroll to the end of the article to find out how to join the conversation.]
Around the table we had: Janet and Carlos, Lionel and Furby, Sara, Cristina, Damjan, Joana, Helga, Pablo , Carmen Fernandez, Claudia, Rob, Elena and yours truly. Strategy, design, retail, digital, client and marketing. A pretty good 360° perspective I’d say.
In some sort of order, and without any direct attribution, here are some of the ideas that emerged from our bread and wine fuelled conversation:
- The problem branding has goes beyond branding. It’s only a symptom arising from a much wider social issue that has to do with people’s trust in businesses. Because of the (recently and not so recently uncovered) shortcomings of capitalism, people have become incredibly suspicious of brands. Today the idea of brand as trust is completely misunderstood and brand today is de-codified by society as a tool to do business. And, as a reaction, brands are incredibly suspicious of people. If branding is about building trust in a company and its products, then we have to understand what trust means today for people — and how the concept is changing at society level. [If you’re interested in this idea, there’s some interested thinking in Wally’s book Brand New, Chapter 3, The New Zeitgeist]
- We need to make a distinction between brand (the thing we are creating) and branding (the people and processes involved in creating brands). While the first one is certainly still very relevant, there’s something wrong with the second one. Brands are still very relevant today because they still convey a certain idea of trust to certain people. But branding and brand consultants are losing relevance because people don’t trust them — and don’t trust the mechanics of how they build and manage brands.
- Brand is the interface that creates an emotional connection. It’s a relationship you form with an object (product).
- The main issue is that we tend to look at brand as the cause, when brand is in fact the consequence, the result of the actions we take; the result of years and years of work done in a certain way in order for organisations to gain people’s trust. Failing to admit that leads to a misleading discourse and approach from those in charge of creating and managing brands.
- Branding has a lot in common with Taoism. And particularly with this idea of exploring the whole world in order to arrive back at where you started from — within you. [Now here’s a proper food for thought guys!]
- The real work happens at the end-user’s end — building a brand is about building this relationship between organisations and their products and the people buying them. The user tends to be the branding’s blindside. One cannot build this relationship of trust it if one doesn’t understand the other one.
- The problem people have with brand is in fact a problem they have with the businesses behind them. When they say they don’t trust brans, they actually are suspicious of what goes on behind the product or the service.
- We only trust brands when they are like us. When we can relate to them, when we feel a connection with what they represent. Hence the need to connect at a human level, hence the necessity for brand professionals to understand this human relationship from the outside-in (people’s needs, wants, expectations) and for the inside-out (how to have an organisation ready to fulfil human expectations).
- In a way, brands are something very selfish. It’s a relationship in your life built around your own needs and expectations, that reflects your own idea(ls) and values. Whatever doesn’t fit in this box is not relevant to you as a brand. [Is that sustainable?]
- Wiring up organisations to be ready for and acknowledge themselves — and behave — as partners in this relationship takes a huge amount of effort and is where the real “branding” work needs to be done.
- A brand manger’s role is to evolve the brand. So to a certain degree it’s a therapist role, trying to understand this relationship the brand has now with its consumers and then see how this relationship can evolve sustainably — and in a way that is authentic to what the brand has been until now and relevant for how the end-users are changing.
- Adolescents don’t understand the concept of brand. Perhaps because they don’t have the prejudice of the whole capitalist struggle Millennials and Gen X have been going through over the past few decades. They have a powerful connection with products they use or the people behind these products, but they don’t recognise that connection as ‘brand’.
- The logo is a shortcut. Just like we call people by a name, instead than by their role in society, our relationship with them, or a description of their personality, a logo is a way to identify an entity we have a relationship with. The reason it usually gets mistaken for a brand is because we’re too used to introducing our work by the shortcut of logo.
- The most powerful dimension of a brand is the experience it provides. And sometimes, the shortcut for that experience is the product, rather the logo. In the case of Lego, few people remember the visual branding as well as they remember the plastic brick.
- The purpose of brand is to sell something. A product, an idea, a service. No matter how much we’d try to argue with that, at the end of the day, branding is the effort of establishing an emotional connection between a person and something they can buy. [Does that mean what we only need brand when we need to sell something? And when we don’t sell, we don’t brand?]
- From a human’s point of view, the brand is how we make a decision to fulfil our needs.
- Brand is leadership. The post powerful representation of brand is an authentic perspective of the world, a clear vision of what the world should/can be and orchestrating the means to achieve that.
- In the absence of leadership, the process of branding in an illusion of control. In a way, we, branding professionals, are trying to mimic the business instinct/intuition of a leader, but without the business responsibility.
This is what we were able to come up with in response to this month’s theme. Now, I would like to invite you, dear reader, to join the conversation by writing your own answer to one of these questions, from your own perspective — which can be that of a strategist, a designer, a marketeer, a business owner, an end-user, a lover or a hater. Publish your point of view on your company’s blog, here on Medium, in a tweet, or an instagram photo, in a vlog or in whatever format you’re more comfortable with. And tag it #brandandbread so we can all keep track of the ideas that are being shared.
April’s theme is identity and you can register for the live meetup here.